Published: May 1st 2009April 9th 2009
Day 735 (03.04.09)
Having recharged our batteries it was time to make a move and face the bone thumping journey back to Popayan - not a prospect that brought joy to our morning. We could have carried on south from here but had been advised that both the condition of the road and amount of Guerrilla activity in the area made it better to retrace our steps to Popayan before heading south to Ecuador.
Picking up the bus at a military police check point, it seemed that they had upped their activity from our previous journey down with everyone already travelling on the bus getting pulled off and searched before we could carry on. We were lucky enough to avoid the police pat down on this occasion.
Another stop further on and we were not so lucky as Mark and the other men were patted down in search of weapons and/or drugs, but all done in a routine, every-day, kind of way.
Eventually with slightly sore joints once more we pulled into the terminal in Popayan where we searched for onward transport to the border. Ah, it seemed we had little options left available to us as it was the lead up to Easter. After much deliberation we decided to save time (as we had already spent more than our planned time in Columbia) and a nights accomodation by booking an overnight bus. Back at the hostel where we had left our big packs however, we soon learnt that this was not the best of plans as this route (at night) has had its share of hijackings. It would be fine to travel during the day but was not recommended during the night. Going down to the bus station once more we managed to change our ticket to an open one for the next available seats in the morning and settled in for another night in Popayan in preparation for an early start the following day. This had been the first hint of anything remotely dangerous in Colombia and we've felt safe and been safe everywhere we've been so far. It just pays to listen to local knowledge at times.
Day 736 (04.04.09)
When we got to the bus station at 6am in time for the first bus out, the ticketing system had already turned into a 'bun fight'. The company we had booked our ticket with gave us our money back and we bought tickets to a town called Pasto on the way to the border where we could change. The bus arrived and we put our bags on, but when we tried to jump on the bus there were no seats and this was a no standing bus ... we simply couldn't get on because there was no space for us!!!! Once again our money was refunded.
We did however managed to get on the next bus with bags being thrown on, the girls saving seats whilst Mark bought the tickets ... there was no way we were missing another one!
In the end it was a stunning drive to Pasto and we were glad to have gone during the day, but it had put us further behind schedule. Not so much a problem for us but Vic was racing to Peru as she had an Inca trail booked.
A quick change at Pasto and we were on our way to the border town of Ipiales. As most border towns are, it didn't look like much on the face of it and we didnt have any time to delve into any of its possible treasures so we headed straight for the border.
Crossing with no money whatsoever to change at the border into Ecuador, we jumped in the minibus to the bus terminal with explicit instructions to stop at a cash point on the way. The instructions were obviously not that explicict as the driver wanted us out at the cash point and didnt want to take us further. Oooops, a bit more explaining in our still slightly shaky spanish and we came to an understanding.
Yet another bus from the terminal and by now we had lost count of how many we had taken. On our way down through Ecuador we had planned to stop at the market town of Otavalo but it seemed that the one stop the bus boy didn't announce was ours and when we asked how long it would be, it transpired that we had sailed right past our stop 10 mins earlier. Rather than getting off on the side of the road in the dark and misty rural Ecuador to wait for a bus to take us back, we opted to carry on another hour or so to Quito.
It wasnt the time we were travelling that had tired us out, it was the contstant changing of buses and haggling for the next leg of the trip, and by the time we had arrived in Quito we were shattered.
Grabbing a cab the three of us found a nice hotel to stay in the old town going to meet up with John once more before passing out.